In conjunction with the 25th anniversary celebrations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we, Young Reporters in Bandundu, have decided to write about the current situation of children compared with that of the past, in Bandundu Province.
In order to do this, we have produced our analysis following four provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We retrieved statistics for our province (MICS report 2010 and Demographic and Health Survey 2013/2014) and compared the data to see how children’s rights have changed during the last few years.
Enjoying better health is one of the fundamental rights of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In Article 6 paragraph 2, the Congolese State undertakes to ensure the survival and development of every child. This provision encompasses several aspects and we have chosen to tell you about the following:
– Immunisation coverage
This has evolved over time and today many children complete the full vaccination program (that is to say, those who were vaccinated before their first birthday). Children can avoid many preventable diseases such as measles and polio, through vaccination. In 2010, 80% of Bandundu children were fully vaccinated although, unfortunately the figure fell to 42% in 2013 (according to MICS and DHS).
There are many reasons for this decline. According to the representative of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in Bandundu that we interviewed, this is partly due to the occasional delay in supply of vaccines, poor coverage of cold chain systems, inadequate transport, difficult accessibility in certain health areas, insufficient funding to cover all immunisation requirements, etc.
Ensuring the future of children requires all authorities to take responsibility for strengthening routine immunisation, a prerequisite for the survival of children in Bandundu.
– Using drinking water
This is a worrying situation because many problems with the supply of drinking water are encountered in both urban and rural areas. According to MICS 2010, the percentage of households using an improved drinking water source is 19% in Bandundu whilst the national average stands at 47%.
– Adequate nutrition
Once again this situation in the province has worsened: in 2010 37% of children were suffering from chronic malnutrition and today the figure is 39%. This represents an alarming situation that needs to be tackled by the authorities. Proper nutrition ensures that children grow healthily and develop their physical and mental abilities.
– Malaria prevention
In our province, malaria remains a disease that affects the largest number of children between 0 and 5 years old. The use of insecticide-treated nets has been successful in reducing the prevalence of this disease in the region. We noted that mosquito nets are used more in rural areas than in urban areas. DHS 2013 indicates that, until then, malaria prevalence was 20% in the province, i.e. 1 in 5 children was sick when investigators took the tests. Malaria prevention remains a great challenge because it remains the biggest killer in our province.
The second provision in the Convention on the Rights of the Child is that of ‘child development’ which calls for quality education accessible to all children.
– Quality education
The number of children attending primary school continues to grow across the whole province, including rural areas. However, it remains important to ensure that these children complete their education and that all children have access to pre-school and secondary education. The quality of education remains a concern and infrastructures do not meet the standards required to enable schools to function properly.
The third Child Rights provision is ‘child protection’. This reminds parents, the Congolese State and all other public bodies that children need a well-maintained system of protection against abuse, conscription to armed groups, exploitation, violence, etc.
Even to this day, children in Bandundu are exposed to inhumane treatment and violation. We are witness to sexual violence, child abuse by their parents, economic exploitation in both rural and urban settings, to name but a few.
The data we consulted indicates an improvement in child protection within the province. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Child Protection Act have successfully reduced the rise in violations.
Compared with the past, significant advances are being seen: the establishment of a juvenile court which did not previously exist; a joint vaccination and birth registration campaign which has, admittedly, increased the number of children registered in the province; the child protection edict which must be popularised; the policing of child protection…
We must emphasise that, according to members of the protection component of the 2014 annual review, obstacles still exist. For example, the juvenile court is waiting for personnel, protection policing which is not equipped to carry out operations and child protection legal instruments that are not properly disseminated. The political and administrative authorities must ensure that these instruments are implemented.
Children’s participation with issues that concern them
The child participation is an inalienable right: children have the right to express their views in matters concerning them and also have the right to information inherent to their well-being.
Child participation is increasing in the city of Bandundu with the presence of Young Reporters but remains a challenge for the Gender Division across the whole province. Through this platform, established by the Ministry for Gender with UNICEF, children now have the opportunity to give their views on matters affecting them and may also publish information through written articles posted on PONABANA.
For example, I represented the children of Bandundu at the Children’s Forum of Hope and the ICGLR Special Summit (International Conference on the Great Lakes Region) in July. Our wish is to see the Young Reporters program gradually extended to Kikwit and Kenge.
With time, child participation has steadily increased because in the past children were not given the opportunity to speak at large meetings. There are non-governmental organisations to coach children in our province but the problem is that, on the whole, they are not growing. Civil society needs to revitalise support structures for children, to encourage increased participation in the province: refresher training programs are needed to enable challenges related to child participation in Bandundu to be met.
The greatest challenge remains
We have determined that the situation of children in Bandundu Province has not changed significantly and some indicators, such as immunisation and malnutrition, show that the situation has worsened. Therefore, we believe that everyone, with the power divested in them, must undertake to make Bandundu Province fit for children.
Through this article, in the name of the Young Reporters of our Province, we are making an impassioned appeal to all of the Congolese Government’s international partner organisations to finance programs aimed at promoting children’s rights. Because, promoting children’s rights today will undoubtedly ensure the future for tomorrow.
I ask the Congolese Government to ensure that all children’s rights are respected and to accelerate the process of achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 1, 4 and 5 which are consistent with child survival.
Translated from French by Victoria Steele
Photo : UNICEF RDC Brett Morton/Diana Mrazikova/Charlotte Gout
Déo Deo a 17 ans, il est enfant reporter et finaliste au collège Kivuvu à Bandundu. Il a représenté les enfants de la RDC au Forum de l'espoir des enfants à Bujumbura en juin 2014. Il fut élu ambassadeur du Forum de l'espoir et a représenté les enfants de la Région des grands Lacs au sommet Spécial de la CIRGL sur l'emploi des jeunes. Pour lui, être enfant Reporter est une opportunité qui lui permet de plaider pour l'amélioration de la situation des enfants de sa communauté
Déo is 17 years old, he is a Young Reporter and a student in final year in KIVUVU High School in Bandundu. Deo has represented Congolese childre at the Forum of Hope in Bujumbura in 2014. He was elected as an Amabassador of Hope and represented children from the Great Lakes region at the Special ICGLR Summit on Youth Employment. For him, being a child reporter gives him an opportunity to advocate on improving the situation on children in his community.
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